IC § 35-44.1-3-1. Resisting law enforcement.

(a) A person who knowingly or intentionally:

(1) forcibly resists, obstructs, or interferes with a law enforcement officer or a person assisting the officer while the officer is lawfully engaged in the execution of the officer’s duties . . .


– The court originally required strong, violent, powerful force directed at the officer. Every few years, a court of appeals decision comes down that reduces what the State is required to prove.

Case Law

– Defendant appealed conviction for forceful resistance.  The arresting officer testified to the alleged “forcible” resistance as follows: “I advised her turn around put your hands behind your back I am going to place you in handcuffs.  At that time she did not do what I asked her to do.  Her purse was sitting on the hood of her car she dove her hand into her purse.  And for safety reasons I pushed her against her car grabbed one hand and handcuffed it.  And, I had to forcibly take her other hand out of her purse and at that time she had her phone on her ear she pulled her phone out hit a button.  Started yelling they are arresting me.  I took the phone out of her hand.  Forced her hand back and handcuffed her.”  Aguirre admitted she was trying to answer her mentally ill son’s phone call when she pulled her arm away from the officer and “dove” her hand into her purse. But she argued her actions, while not completely passive, did not rise to the level of intentionally, forcibly resisting law enforcement.  The Court of Appeals agreed: “Indeed, the record reveals that Aguirre was attempting to answer her cell phone.  The  record does not indicate  any evidence that Aguirre used the requisite force via “strong, powerful, violent means” to evade Officer Green’s rightful exercise of her duties.  See Spangler, 607 N .E.2d at 723.  There is no evidence that Aguirre stiffened her arms, like the defendant in Johnson, was violent or threatening, or otherwise forcibly resisted Officer Green.”  Consequently, the ambiguous evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support a conviction.  Aguirre v. State, ? N.E.2d at ? (Ind. App. 2011).

– The juvenile’s failure to stand when asked to and his passive resistance as the officer pulled him to his feet did not constitute forcible resistance.  Likewise, his leaning away as the officer pulled up his pants, which were sagging below his waist, was not forcible resistance.  There was no evidence the officer experienced any difficulty whatsoever in handcuffing the juvenile. AC v. State, 929 N.E.2d 907 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010).

– Animal Control responded to a call regarding a dog chasing children. Officers were told by Smothers the dog was a stray. The officers found the dog and took it to the animal shelter. Later that day, Δ and Smothers went to the animal shelter and Δ said he owned the dog. Officers went to Δ’s home to issue him a dog restraint violation. When officers arrived at the home, Δ came to the door of his trailer, called the officer a “mother fucker,” told him to get the “fuck” off of his land, and slammed the door in his face. The officer went to his car and called backup. Smothers waived the officer over to the porch. While the officer and Smothers talked about the citation, Δ reappeared in the doorway and started screaming and hollering at the officer. Officers warned Δ to calm down several times. Δ called the sheriff’s department and screamed for Smothers to take the telephone. When she did not accept the phone, he threw the phone towards her. The phone landed on the ground and the officer talked briefly with the Sherriff. Δ continued to yell and disrupt the issuance of the citation. As Δ stood in the doorway to his trailer, the officer grabbed his arm in order to arrest him. Δ jerked away from the officer and ran into the trailer. The officer followed Δ and a struggle ensued. After spraying Δ with pepper mace two times, the officers were able to handcuff Δ. The State charged Δ with disorderly conduct and resist.  In Adkisson, when police arrived at Adkisson’s house and knocked, Adkisson did not open the door. Adkisson eventually did open the door. When she attempted to shut the door, an officer put his foot in the doorway. A struggle followed, and Adkisson was arrested for resisting law enforcement. The officer’s forcible entry into Adkisson’s home was unlawful because her arrest was not initiated in a public place, and the conviction was reversed.  When the officer’s knocked on Johnson’s door, he opened the door and then slammed it. Later, Johnson returned to the door of his home to yell at the officers while the officer’s wrote the ticket.  Johnson was in the doorway, in plain view.  When the officer entered, he was in hot pursuit of Johnson, following him from a public place to a private place.  The officer was lawfully engaged in the execution of his duties when the arrest was made.  In Indiana, there is a general rule that a private citizen may not use force in resisting a peaceful arrest by an individual who he knows is a police officer performing his duties even if the arrest is unlawful.  The conviction for resisting law enforcement is affirmed. Johnson v. State 747 N.E.2d 623 (Ind. App. 2001).

– Officers were dispatched to an apartment complex to investigate a disturbance. Neighbors stated that Adkisson struck and injured them. Officers knocked on Adkisson’s apartment and requested permission to enter. She denied them permission to enter. The officer’s questioned Adkisson from outside the apartment. Later, officers returned, and Adkisson opened the door to speak with them. Adkisson remained in the house. Adkisson attempted to shut the door, but the officer prevented her from doing so by placing his foot in the doorway. The officer told Adkisson that she was being arrested for battery and followed her inside. Adkisson pushed the officer and ran down the hallway. Adkisson struggled with officers, who then maced her. Eventually, Adkisson was arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement by force.  Generally, an officer must secure an arrest warrant before he may arrest a person for a misdemeanor that was not committed in his presence.  IC 35-33-1(a)(5) allows an officer to make an arrest without a warrant when the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed a battery resulting in bodily injury.  The officer had probable cause to believe that Adkisson had committed a battery.  Absent consent, the 4th Amendment requires that even when probable cause for a warrantless arrest exists, an officer may only enter a defendant’s home to make the arrest when exigent circumstances exist that make it impracticable to obtain a warrant first.  There were no exigent circumstances.  A suspect may not defeat an arrest which has been set in motion in a public place by the expedient of escaping to a private place.  In Santana the defendant was standing in the doorway of her house when officers arrived. Officers informed Santana that she was being arrested before they entered the home.  Adkisson came to her door in response to the police knocking. Also, police did not tell her that she was under arrest until after they had entered her home.  Police are generally not permitted to break the threshold of the home in order to make an arrest.  Opening the door to ascertain the purpose of an interruption to the private enjoyment of the home is not an invitation to enter, but rather is a common courtesy of civilized society. Attendant to this courtesy is the ability to exclude those who are knocking an preserve the integrity of the physical boundaries of the home. Because Adkisson’s arrest was not initiated in a public place, and because no exigent circumstances existed, the officer acted unlawfully when he arrested her. Therefore, the officer was not lawfully engaged in the execution of his duties. A citizen has the right to reasonably resist unlawful entry into the home.  The conviction for resisting law enforcement by force is reversed. Adkisson v. State 728 N.E.2d 175 (Ind. App. 2000).

– Ajabu and several others demonstrated an execution in Monument Circle. The Olympic torch was scheduled to pass through. A third party attempted to light an American flag on fire. Ajabu was holding the flag. An officer told the third party not to light the flag as it would be too dangerous. Ajabu encouraged the third party to light the flag. The officer attempted to take the flag. Ajabu reacted by holding onto the flag and twisting and turning it. Ajabu was sprayed with mace but continued to hold onto the flag. Ajabu was dragged 8 or 10 feet before letting go of the flag. Ajabu was arrested and charged with resisting by force. In order to be convicted of resist by force, any action done must be done with force. A defendant forcibly resists law enforcement when strong, powerful, violent means are utilized to evade an officer’s lawful exercise of his duties. Some form of violent action toward another is required. If a defendant does nothing more that stand his ground, he has not resisted by force. Ajabu resisted, by the record does not disclose any evidence that Ajabu acted forcibly. Ajabu merely resisted the officer by claiming ownership and holding onto the flag. The record does not reveal any evidence that Ajabu made threatening or violent actions toward the police. The conviction for resisting law enforcement by force is reversed. Ajabu v. State, 704 N.E.2d 494 (Ind. App. 1998).

– Officer’s went to Wellman’s house to investigate a report of child abused. Wellman met them at the door of his home, was rude, and told officers that he would “have to respectfully resist.” Wellman told officers he was going back inside and the officers told him not to do so. Wellman shut and locked the door. After Wellman refused to open the door, officers forced open the door and entered the house. Wellman came down the stairs, and said, “No, I’m not going. You have to physically take me out of this house. I’m not leaving.” Wellman then put his arms to the sides of the doorway to hold himself in place. The officers pushed Wellman aside. Wellman resisted prevented himself from being handcuffed and dropped to his knees. Wellman was lifted to his feet and walked to the police car. Wellman was charged with resisting by flight and resisting by force. “Forcibly” requires acts of strength, power, or violence directed toward the officers involved. In all cases where resist by force has been upheld, there was evidence of threatening gestures and movements toward or away from the officers.  Wellman acted in civil, non-violent stand in protest of the arrest. The State failed to prove the essential element of “force.”  The conviction for resisting law enforcement by force is reversed. – Wellman v. State, 703 N.E.2d 1061 (Ind. App. 1998).

– A temporary protective order and an order to appear was granted against Spangler. The police attempted to serve the protective order and order to appear numerous times, but were unsuccessful. An officer called Spangler at the Post Officer, where he worked, and Spangler told the officer never to call him again at work and hung up. The officer carried the papers to the Post Office, and Spangler refused to accept the papers, and told the officer not to bother him at work. Spangler then went to the back of the post officer despite the officer’s order not to walk away. Another Postal employee brought Spangler back to the front, where Spangler again told the officer to stop bothering him at work. Spangler was arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement because of the refusal to accept service. Forcibly applies to resists, obstructs, and interferes. One “forcibly resists” law enforcement when strong, powerful, violent means are used to evade a law enforcement official’s rightful exercise of his or her duties. The legislature intended the term “forcible” to connote some form of violent action toward another.  A “forcible felony” is a felony that involves the use or threat of force against a human being, or in which there is imminent danger of bodily injury to a human being. In White, where the defendant did nothing more than stand his ground, the court found that his actions did not amount to forcible interference.  “Forcibly resists” does not include all actions that are not passive.  There is no evidence that Spangler acted forcibly. There was no strength, power, or violence directed towards the law enforcement official. There was not movement or threatening gesture.  If the process server attempts personal service, and the individual to be served refuses delivery, the refusal may not defeat a court’s jurisdiction. The person to be served is on notice of the pendency of some court proceeding. If an individual peaceably resists service of process, a court has sanctioning power over the individual and can hold contempt proceedings.  Spangler’s conviction for resisting law enforcement service is reversed. – Spangler v. State, 607 N.E.2d 720 (Ind. 1993).

– A prisoner escaped from incarceration. Stack saw police men outside his building looking for the prisoner and offered to help them search. The prisoner later jumped out of the second floor of a courthouse and injured his head. Stack saw many officers around the prisoner and went to see what they were doing. As Stack was leaving, an undercover officer arrived on the scene. He was in an unmarked car and was not in uniform. Stack criticized the police and the undercover officer disagreed, at which point Stack told the undercover officer that he was an asshole. The undercover officer told Miller to be careful or he would be arrested. A bystander called Stack to join him. Without identifying himself or telling Stack that he was under arrest, the under cover officer reached for and touched Stack’s shoulder. The two began to roll around on the ground. Stack was charged with resisting law enforcement.  There was no reason for Stack to believe that the under cover officer was a police officer. It is not uncommon for one civilian to help another during a moment of agitation in order to avoid arrest.  In order to resist law enforcement, the person being arrested must at least know that the person he is dealing with is an officer.   Stack’s conviction for resisting law enforcement is reversed. Stack v. State, 534 N.E.2d 253 (Ind. App. 1989).

– An off duty officer learned of an altercation and proceeded to the residence where the altercation had occurred. Nieto knew who the police officer was and became aggressive when the officer arrived. The officer told Nieto to calm down and not hit the women anymore. Nieto challenged the officer to a fight, shoved him, and struck him in the face. The officer placed Nieto under arrest. Nieto continued to struggle and attempted to kick the officer. An on duty officer arrived and Nieto charged both officers. Nieto was charged with resisting law enforcement.  An off duty police officer can be engaged in the lawful discharge of his duties. Whether or not the officer is lawfully engaged in his duties depends on the nature of the acts performed, not whether the officer is in uniform or on duty.  The officer’s acts were in the nature of the official duties of preserving peace and preventing offenses.  Nieto struck the officer while the officer was attempting to preserve the peace.  Neito’s conviction for resisting law enforcement is upheld. – Nieto v. State, 499 N.E.2d 280 (Ind. App. 1986).

– Casselman failed to appear at a hearing in a suit initiated by one of his creditors. Defendant had been advised by his attorney that his bankruptcy filing relieved him of his obligation to attend the hearing. The court was not informed of the bankruptcy and a writ of attachment was issued. An officer went to Casselman’s home. Casselman told the officer of the bankruptcy and told the officer to contact his attorney. The officer then began reading the writ. Casselman began to close the door. The officer grabbed the door, reached in, and stuck his leg in to keep the door open. After a scuffle, the officer drew his revolver, and arrested Casselman for resisting law enforcement. – The writ of attachment of the body is not a criminal arrest warrant. The writ of attachment is civil.  A man’s home is his castle. The officer was not lawfully engaged in the execution of civil process when he prevented Casselman from closing the door to his home. Casselman had the right to close the door, engaged in no resistance, obstruction or interference other than the attempt to close the door. The scuffle arose only after the officer unlawfully entered.  At common law, reasonable resistance to an unlawful arrest was privileged conduct.   The modern trend does not allow people to resist unlawful arrests. However, in those cases where the court has followed the modern trend, a citizen resisted what he know to be an attempt at a peaceable arrest by a person he knew to be a police officer. The arrests occurred in public places and were for criminal offenses. The unlawfulness of the arrests arose from the absence of sufficient grounds for the arrests, not from the means used to affect the arrest.  Courts have recognized a greater privilege to resist an unlawful entry into private premises than to resist an unlawful arrest in a public place.  The more patently unlawful the intrusion, the more excusable the resistance becomes. At least with respect to entries made without color of warrant, an individual may offer reasonable resistance to an unlawful entry as long as the resistance does not rise to the level of an assault.  The right to resist an illegal arrest has been abrogated, but the right to offer reasonable resistance to an unlawful entry has not.  The justification for not allowing people to resist a peaceful arrest lies in the policy of preventing violence. However, without the initial peacefulness of the arrest, a large part of the justification is lost. In the absence of a criminal arrest warrant, an arrest cannot be considered peaceful when it is accomplished by forcibly preventing a person from closing the door to his house or by entering the house without permission.   Just as the judicial authorization of the writ does not give an officer the right to use excessive force in effecting an arrest, it does not give the officer the right to interfere unlawfully with a citizen’s right to be secure in his home.   Casselman’s conviction for resisting law enforcement is reversed.  Casselman v. State, 472 N.E.2d 1310 (Ind. App. 1985).

– An off duty police officer was working as a plainclothes security guard at a store. The officer saw Tapp wrap a pair of children’s shoes in a pink baby blanket and put them into her purse. The officer followed Tapp out the door, displayed his badge, and announced: “I am a City Police Officer and you’re under arrest for shoplifting.” The officer asked Tapp to open her purse, and she refused. A scuffle followed. Tapp argued that she believed that the officer was a purse snatcher. Tapp was convicted of battery of a law enforcement officer. A conviction for battery of a law enforcement officer, like a conviction for resisting law enforcement, requires that the law enforcement officer be engaged in the execution of his official duty. Whether or not an officer is engaged in the performance of his official duties depends on the nature of the acts performed, and not whether the officer is no duty or in uniform. The state proved that the officer was a law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of his official duty when it proved that he was an officer, displayed his police badge and announced his status as an officer. The fact that he was off duty, out of uniform, and employed as a security guard by a private employer does not negate the officers status as a law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of his official duty. The conviction for battery of a law enforcement officer is upheld. Tapp v. State, 406 N.E.2d 296 (Ind. App. 1980).

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